THE MISTAKE ENGLAND MADE ABOUT IRELAND

THE English policy of three centuries had left Ireland at the beginning of the nineteenth century with a strongly Presbyterian settlement in Ulster, a class of Anglican landlords in the South, and nearly eight million Catholic peasants, dispossessed of their lands, existing in appalling poverty. The history of Ireland henceforward was a local specimen of the nationalist and agrarian problems which were common on the Continent. Catholic emancipation in 1829 came too late: it had been extorted by threats of rebellion. The famine of 1845 led to a reduction of nearly fifty per cent in the population, partly by death, partly by emigration. These Irish emigrants, needless to say, took with them to America and Australia a keen dislike of England and intensified whatever unpopularity of England may have existed, while in London the repute of Parliament was lowered by the campaign in favour of Irish Home Rule carried on after 1880. Home Rule, as then advocated by the Irish and their Liberal allies, was a much milder thing than the independence which Ireland has enjoyed since 1922. It was unpopular with (probably) a majority of English people because of the strong anti-Catholic feeling that still existed, and because it appeared to be impossible to disentangle the Protestants, either in Ulster or in the South, from the Catholic population. The Home Rule scheme was therefore delayed, though measures for promoting the welfare of the Catholic peasantry and enabling them to buy land were put into force.